How to Use Knowledge Management Practices to Support Workforce Retention

By: Cynthia J. Young, DBA, PMP, LSS MBB, CMQ-OE, Founder/CEO of CJ Young Consulting, LLC,

a knowledge management consulting firm, and a curriculum developer and instructor with Leidos. She retired from the U.S. Navy after 23 years. Cindy can be contacted at cjyoung@cjyoungconsulting.com.

With the Great Resignation upon us, those in the workforce who are not resigning but who can choose where to work may opt to work remotely rather than commuting regularly to an office. Through all of this, leaders and managers must think clearly about managing knowledge whether the workforce is in-office, remote, or a hybrid configuration. The workforce must be aware of the moving parts, the authorized processes, and internal and external customer expectations. Managing the requisite knowledge as part of organizational culture can be accomplished to maintain production or services, but it requires dedicated efforts.

Ensuring knowledge is adequately communicated to the workforce builds trust, which supports retention efforts. The question is, how do we maintain our workforce while keeping the knowledge flowing from team member to team member? Organizations can manage knowledge to support communication, employee retention, and build camaraderie, whether the workforce is in-office, remote, or a hybrid of the two.

The following are five low-cost or no-cost ways anyone in an organization can manage knowledge with any of three workforce location configurations.

CYNTHIA J YOUNG photo

Cynthia J Young

Show your organization what works well. If you’ve been through a specific pain point and came out of the other side, share with your organization how you could overcome it to the benefit of the organization. A pain point can be a difficult conversation with a customer or other stakeholder. It can also be a part of a project or program you were involved in that required coordination with another team. Sharing your pain and how you overcame it helps others avoid that pain and potentially save your organization time and money.

Use a RACI chart. Most times, RACI charts are used with teams to show who’s responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed, typically shorted to RACI. RACI charts are used for more than projects and can identify personnel and their knowledge needs. RACIs are an efficient method to ensure knowledge is disseminated to the right person. Just remember that accountability cannot be shared while responsibility can be.

Don’t keep bad news to yourself. As the saying goes, “Bad news doesn’t get better with age.” Take a few minutes to consider who needs to know what you know and prioritize it, but also work to have a solution to go with it. Whether you lead a team or are on the team, bring the team into the discussion since they can help problem solve and get various points of view. This is also an excellent opportunity to use your RACI chart to guide you to bring your bad news and potential solution set. Be honest and don’t hold back on sharing the information.

Conduct pre-briefs. Pre-brief an event to discuss expectations of knowledge sharing. Set your team up for success by making required decision points or other toll gates public knowledge. Include explicit guidance that the team can take with them so that once the event has started, they will have easy reminders of what to tell someone or what needs doing. Over time, this becomes tacit knowledge for repeatable processes, but when something new is incorporated into the process, it should be communicated with the team to prevent surprises.

Conduct lunch-and-learns. When you have an open event to teach a skill or share tips and tricks for free, yes, buy participants lunch, too. This may be done remotely with many options by giving a gift card to purchase lunch. Goodwill goes a long way to ensuring knowledge isn’t kept in a vacuum. Lunch-and-learns are great opportunities to share knowledge, build esprit-de-corps between co-workers, and give facetime with other movers and shakers for those who don’t usually see more than their immediate team.

Management may not have funds set aside for internal events such as lunch-and-learns. To keep it low-cost, hold a lunch-and-learn with volunteer participants during a designated lunchtime where they can bring a lunch if they choose while still participating in the event. You should be open that it is not paid time. After holding a Lunch-and-Learn, follow it up with a short email to leadership to let share what was shared, the importance of the event, the participants’ names, and the outcomes.

Final Words

There are many aspects of knowledge management to consider when working with an in-office, remote, or hybrid workforce. Whether or not an organization has a knowledge management strategy, it’s still worth the time and effort to communicate knowledge to add to your workforce retention efforts. Make it part of the culture, so everyone feels that they know what is happening and why, whether your workforce is remote, in-office, or a combination of the two. No one wants to be the mushroom fed BS while sitting in the dark.

 

Adapted from my Knowledge Management Short Guide, 5 Ways to Manage Organizational Knowledge (Even When You Aren’t the Boss)

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